Prisoners or Patients? Criminal Insanity in Victorian Scotland

When & Where

Thursday, 1 August 2019 - 10:00am to Friday, 30 August 2019 - 4:30pm
Matheson Dome, HM General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY

Event Details

The stories of prisoner-patients held in the Criminal Lunatic Department in Perth are revealed in this partnership exhibition. Diving into the rich archival sources held within the National Records of Scotland (NRS), guest curator Professor Rab Houston of the University of St Andrews, examines the personal histories of crime, recovery and release recorded in the archives.

High Court of Justiciary records reveal the details of the prisoner-patient’s crime in their own words, while the notes of doctors and prison officials detail how they tried to help men and women who were occasionally dangerous, often vulnerable, but always severely disturbed.

For centuries mental illness and impairment have touched the lives of people regardless of background, sex or circumstance. This exhibition tells their story and aims to raise awareness of continuing mental health issues, inside and outside of prisons today.

*This exhibition examines the treatment of criminal lunatics in the Victorian era and uses the vocabulary that is present in this historical context. The exhibition does not attempt to correct the language of the past that features words which are no longer medically accurate or socially acceptable. Instead it examines how those suffering from mental health issues were treated and recorded in the 19th century. As such there are several references to historical medical terms including lunatic, mad, imbecile and insane; and descriptions of violent crime.  


Jocelyn Grant
0131 535 1374



Event Location

Matheson Dome
HM General Register House
2 Princes Street


Please note that you should check with the event organiser to confirm details of times and location - Scottish Local History Forum is not responsible for the events hosted by Member Societies.